It Is Always Three O'Clock in the Morning

Episode 1: Cities In Dust

Music: Cities In Dust

Several weeks have passed since Anthony and Angel were embraced. They have learned, in rough terms at least, what they are and what they must do to survive, though neither really full believes it yet. Angel has been spending his nights with Marcel, an old friend of his and small-time drug dealer, who seems to be involved with the strange supernatural underground Angel finds himself a part of. Marcel does not seem to be the same sort of monster Angel is, though Angel does not know exactly what he is. Anthony has been guarded and shepherded by Nora. As the episode opens, Anthony and Nora are walking through a large central city park near midnight, and their conversation reveals tensions and distrust between the two.

Nora angrily accuses Anthony of staying in contact with Tracy, her neighbor and twice now the target of Anthony’s hunger. She lectures him on the danger involved and the need for secrecy. Anthony fends her off as best he can, replying that he understands the risks involved and assuring her he has been careful and safe as possible. He also denies further contact with the woman, though he has in fact spoken with her once or twice more than he is willing to admit. Shifting subjects, Nora gestures to an abandoned bath house and sanitarium on a hill on the edge of the park. That’s their destination, she explains, a place of gathering where they can socialize with “others.” This will be Anthony’s social debut, she intimates mysteriously.

Earlier in the night, Angel rides with Marcel in a beaten-up old car as they drive through a run-down part of Cathedral City. Marcel has been fairly helpful but also secretive, and tonight he began the evening by declaring that “the boss” wants to see Angel, and that Angel had little choice in the matter. On the upside, Marcel says the boss might be able to help Angel figure out who did this to him, who turned him into the thing he is now. Angel rides along, and follows even when Marcel leads him in an unmarked back door of a decript-looking building and down several flights of crumbling stairs, until they are well and truly underground. Through a series of halls and tunnels, they find themselves at a large rusty metal door and Marcel gestures for Angel to go inside. From now on he’s on his own.

Inside the dank-smelling room underneath the city Angel finds an exquisitely beautiful library, and an exquisitely horrible monster in the library, sitting at an ornate writing desk. It gestures Angel to come forward and in a clipped European accent of some kind introduces himself as Viktor. Even with everything that has come before, Angel has difficulty controlling his panic and visceral disgust as the creature in front of him, with his surrealist-nightmare face and his amateurishly rearranged looming body. Nonetheless, the creature named Viktor asks Angel what he knows of what is he is, and listens patient to his explanation. Viktor enlightens Angel further, explaining that there is a diversity of monsters like Angel in the world that would beggar the imagination. Viktor is one of them, in fact, though quite different from Angel. There even exists a gentile society of monsters, it explains, to provide some company in the lonely nocturnal void. And finally, Viktor explains that if Angel works with this society, the Camarilla, and more specifically if he works with Viktor, great rewards are possibly in store. But before allowing him to make the decision, the Viktor thing beckons Angel to follow him through a further door into the labyrinth, so that Angel “might make an informed decision.”

Following Viktor through a smaller rusted door and down several twists and turns, Angel finds himself in something resembling no less than a modern equivalent of a castle dungeon. A handful of rows of cells line the walls of this narrow corridor, with shadowy half-light given by electric torches hung by hooks on the ceiling. And there in the last cell, squirming on the floor of the cell and whimpering pitifully, a moving thing. Angel gasps as he realizes the thing is a person, a thing like himself except only flailing stumps exist where arms and legs should be. After allowing this scene to sink in for a moment or two, Viktor turns to Angel and explains that other societies exist, ones actually more horrific than the Camarilla, and that the man on the floor belongs to one such alternative. This, Viktor suggests, is the price of not playing along. At this it faces Angel, and asks whether he is willing to receive the benefits of service. Angel says yes to this convincing offer, and Viktor attempts a sinister broken, grey-gummed smile in response. “Excellent. Well, we must be going,” Viktor says, “You are wanted at Elysium.”

In the echoing art noveau halls of an empty house of baths, sinister people gossip and whisper in small groups around the high walkway edges or linger on plush, rotten couches at the bottoms of pools. Anthony and Angel find themselves brought together, sitting on uncomfortable wooden chairs at the bottom of a long, deep pool in front of a depressingly normal metal desk. They share few glances but fewer words, instead waiting in the echoing silence as various other figures appear in the walkway on the edge of the pool, shadowed and far enough away to prevent identification. After what seems like an eternity of waiting, the empt metal chair is suddenly and instantaneously filled by a mousey-looking woman in a rumpled brown suit appearing seemingly out of thin air. She wastes no time but begins to interview Angel and Anthony for some unexplained purpose, her eyes alive with a rare intensity. Her questions are invasive and seem to suggest that Anthony and Angel are by turns violent, predatory, cowardly, sadistic, and perverted. Angel plays along, but Anthony is defiantly reticent, and the mousey woman mysteriously threatens “positive reinforcement” if he does not begin to comply. Unhappy with the idea of finding out what that might be, Anthony follows along, for now at least.

During this exchange, Anthony is questioned about the woman who turned him, who they refer to as his “sire.” After describing her, an unseen man comments to an unseen woman on the walk above, “Certainly sounds like Arianne..” and with that, another woman has appeared in the pool bottom, a tall and severe-looking woman with piercing gaze behind a set of ornate spectacles. She proceeds to press Anthony hotly on his sire, and condescendingly patronizes to him when his answers don’t seem sufficient to her. Finally fed up with this treatment, Anthony shouts in response to yet another badgering demand, and slams his hand on the desk in his frustration.

This quite simply makes the entire situation go batshit. The mousey woman shrieks in response to Anthony’s echoing slam, and fetches a large scalpel from somewhere under the table which she attempts to drive directly into Anthony’s fist, though Anthony is able to jerk his hand back just quickly enough to avoid being pinned to the desk. But before he can recover he is picked up bodily from his chair as the tall woman’s hand closes on his face with an iron-grip and lifts him one-handed in the air. “Edith! Calm yourself,“ she shouts. “My name is Annette, and I am Prince of this domain, neonate,” she growls. “That means I’m in fucking charge here. If you choose to bawl like a baby any more in front of me, you can greet the dawn. Got it?” Anthony weakly nods, and finds himself dropped unceremoniously on the floor. “I’m done with you,” Annette announces. “Listen to your babysitters, and stay out of trouble unless you want me to schedule a private session between you and Edith. Now get out of here.”

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